You can instantly get This 90+ Slide PowerPoint show that was over 30 hours in the making with powerful content that will fully equip you for discussions with others on Islam, Muslims, and Extremist Terrorism in this day of constant terror threats.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
By the time I was 17 I had moved nineteen times. This pattern of inconsistency and uncertainty, coupled with mental illness, and without God had me living a life filled with everything the world said would complete me.
Four years in the U.S. Air Force followed by four years in a fraternity at San Diego State University led me down a road of self-destruction that should have killed me.
I accepted the Lord in 1989 and expected things to turn around. It didn’t. I can’t tell you why. It just wasn’t my time. God had other things in mind.
A brief stay in a mental hospital, followed by years of struggling to be normal was my life. It wasn’t until five years ago when I moved back to Irvine to take care of my Mom and Step-dad, that the light shined through and my understanding of life cleared.
WHAT BECAME THE TURNING POINT IN YOUR LIFE AS A DISCIPLE?
The most prolific event that happened was joining Saddleback church. I’ve been involved in some great churches but Pastor Rick Warren has built such a strong, solid church that ministers to a copious amount of ministries all across the world.
It was soon after joining I volunteered to be a leader at a junior-high camp. And the rest is history.
I’ve been four years with the same group of young men and my past has been something I share with these boys to put fear into them, but also to share that God has something much better for them, if obedient.
During these past five years, I’ve also written three books, which has been cathartic and exciting.
HOW MIGHT GOD USE PODCAST SEMINARY IN PEOPLE’S LIVES?
Three years ago, I met Freddy Cardoza at a Saddleback Church Men’s Retreat. We immediately hit it off and have become good friends.
His creation of Podcast Seminary has been nothing short of a miracle. Getting more of a behind the scenes view of this amazing site, I can say without a doubt that God is all over it. The amount of time he has given to creating something people would truly accept and use is humbling.
My hope is that people that are looking for an anchor in these trying times will use Podcast Seminary to help find their way.
Our thanks to Tom Bruner from Irvine, California for telling his story. Is God working in your life? Has Podcast Seminary challenged you to grow in your faith and relationship with God? If so, we encourage you to share your story with us as well! Simply email us!
Little is more important in life than making good choices.
And daily we find ourselves making dozens and dozens of choices. In fact, a recent study by Cornell University reported that the average person in the United States makes 227 choices daily– just involving issues related to food! Some estimates are that we make, through big and small choices, up to 35000 choices daily.
Whatever the number, we make a lot of choices. And our choices should be good ones.
In this important episode, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, helps you build a decision-making model based on scripture. He names and explores three categories informed by God’s Word, then explains what each is, followed by examples of each, and exactly what believers should do in making decisions in each category.
Prepare to learn about:
1) Matters of Conviction
2) Matters of Conscience
3) Matters of Choice
Thanks for listening to Podcast Seminary. Please share us with others!
How to Make Good Choices
Our world is a complex place. Life’s choices have become increasingly challenging to make. Discernment is harder than it used to be. Rather than life presenting us with clearly black and white issues, it seems that society lives more in the marginal grays– where what is right and wrong, or best for us, isn’t always obvious.
That led me to begin searching to find out how many choices we actually make in the course of a day or week. What I found surprised me.
Every day we make an enormous number of decisions. So many, in fact, that the matter has caught the attention of social scientists.
It may surprise you that, according to researchers at respected Cornell University, a whopping 226.7 decisions are made each day by the average American… on food alone! (Would you like fries with that?) What’s more, when taking into consideration all of the choices we make– whether conscious, subconscious,impulsive, logical, and complex decisions– up to a staggering 35,000 choices overall are reportedly made every 24 clock hours of the day for the average person!
We Make “How Many” Decisions Everyday?
Possibly 35,000. And if you think about it, it makes at least some sense.
After all, we decide things like when we will get up and whether we will snooze the alarm or not. choice of toothpaste, if and when to brush our teeth, whether to use mouth wash, when to use mouth wash, and what brand of mouthwash to use– and how much. Then there’s what we’ll wear. Considering the fact that the average person wears at least 8 articles of clothing, that racks up another 6-8 decisions, depending on how you count it. And that’s just before breakfast!
So if this 35,000 choices per day statistic is even remotely true, that calculates to past 2 Million in the average lifetime! And even if it were much less, you’re still talking in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands per person!
Making Good Decisions is Critical. But How?
With this many choices on the line, we had better learn more about how to make good ones. This is especially true for the Christian, as we are told in scripture to be discerning about everything (Phil 1:9-10) and to pay close attention to our thinking (2 Cor. 10:5). With these truths in mind, let’s look at some helpful perspectives on how to make decisions as a disciple of Jesus.
1. Identify Whether the Issue is a Matter of Choice, Conscience, or Conviction
2. Then determine the correct course of action, based on the following decision-making grid.
Though I have heard a number of approaches to decision-making, I felt more work needed to be done to help us in areas where believers often disagree and where important life choices must be made. Decisions, overall, and issues of ethics and morality in particular, are becoming tougher and tougher to discern.
There seemed to be times when the choice models to which I’d been exposed simply didn’t get the job done. Either the situations required so many exceptions and entailments that the issues overwhelmed the model– or the categories provided for decision-making weren’t a good fit. Here’s an alternate decision-making model I hope will help.
Everything begins by figuring out what type of decision is being presented to you. That is what dictates how you will approach the situation. And if this seems complicated– it really isn’t. This simply involves working to classify everything into one of three simple biblical categories. Let’s look more closely at the grid I created that builds off of earlier models I have seen. What follows isn’t inerrant, but it’s a start and the best insight I have at this point in my thinking.
Here we go.
Three Classifications of Choices
I separate choices into three categories: Matters of Conviction, Conscience, and Choice. I think these closely mirror what we see in scripture.
- Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly and/or explicitly, and where prohibitions or principles are obvious to Christians who take the Bible seriously. In these cases, there is no discernment needed as to God’s Will or what to choose… just the decision to be obedient.
- Matters of Conscience are issues that may or may not be addressed explicitly in scripture, or that are left purposefully without specific prohibitions or commands, and are especially instances when ‘principles’ need to be clarified and weighed out. Often these are issues that depend on a myriad of circumstances or mitigating factors that, when those variables are taken into consideration, make a decision a good one or bad one. But because discernment is needed, and since believers are all at different levels of maturity and Bible knowledge, these are issues where devoted believers can differ (especially when certain groups’ teachings on these issues seem to conflict with scripture) and when, despite the issue being clear to our understanding, a significant group of Christians can knowingly differ on the issue.
- Matters of Choice are issues where scripture is silent or provides no directives. It is when the Bible’s teaching is not obligatory and when believers seem to be given permission to do as they choose.
These are quick sketches of each of the three categories explored below. Their brevity is helpful in some ways, but the simplicity itself raises more questions. So let’s do a deep dive in each category to see how this approach might help our decision-making, so we can make better choices!
Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conviction”
Matters of Conviction are clearly important. These are issues where we have genuine and deeply-held beliefs.
Matters of Conviction involve decision-making on issues of moral or theological importance. Non-moral or theological choices aren’t relevant here because, since they aren’t moral or theological– they do not rise to the level of a biblical conviction. That is why these matters are so important.
Two Components of a Matter of Conviction
Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly (say it with me) “when proper Bible interpretation occurs.” So there are two issues that dictate what I consider to be a Matter of Conviction: (1) Any serious Christian would consider the issue to be one clearly addressed in scripture. The Bible addresses the matter and teaches on it, usually explicitly– or in such an implicit way that the biblical teaching can’t be missed. That’s the first issue: That the issue is clearly addressed in scripture, be it by implicit principle or explicitly.
The second issue (2) related to a Matter of Conviction is that, when proper biblical interpretation occurs by persons who have a high regard for the authority of scripture, the issue is considered clear to all. Note that, because of the continual, even incessant assault on the authority of scripture in society and, indeed, in our pulpits and even some seminaries, matters that should be considered clear issues of “conviction” are harder to identify than they should be. Even so, the position taken in this blog post is that scripture is authoritative and binding, specifically inspired, infallible, and yes– inerrant. This model of making choices begins to break down when scripture is questioned, simply because the standard is then relativized and the goal posts are moved. So let’s assume, at least for the purposes of this discussion, that scripture is “true” (an assumption, by the way, that I always make).
Matters of Conviction include a great number of decisions in life. These “should be” easy for Christians, and are for committed Christians. These “Matters of Conviction,” being both clearly taught in scripture AND when understood by a person who holds to the authority of scripture, are nothing more than areas of obedience or disobedience to scripture. There is no real question as to whether the action or issue is moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad. There is no question whether the teaching or doctrine should or shouldn’t be honored, because it is explicitly taught from the authoritative source of Christian revelation: scripture.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conviction
Any list such as this is bound to cause some people trouble. That’s the nature of such things. But leaving the issue to guessing is even worse.
One can only speak from his or her own perspective, so following is my personal perspective on what would constitute a Matter of Conviction and, as the Apostle Paul says, let each be “convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
- Matters of Conviction includes areas where certain behaviors are scripturally forbidden, such as in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). It doesn’t get much clearer than “Thou shalt not…” And of course, there are others. The Ten Commandments are not the only behaviors or issues specifically forbidden or prescribed in the Bible. A great number of other behaviors are also identified throughout scripture, things such as human sacrifice, practicing divination, being a medium (all in Deuteronomy 18). In these cases, both the explicit thing forbidden and things that flow from them, are clearly considered Matters of Conviction. So, in this instance, it would be clear (a) in explicit and implicit scriptural teaching and also (b) to anyone committed to the authority of scripture, that everything directly forbidden (cold-blooded murder, theft, adultery, and others) in addition to those things explicitly implied in scripture (fraticide, cheating, consulting a spiritual medium, and the like) are legitimate Matters of Conviction. But there are others.
- Matters of Conviction aren’t only issues that are “illegal” and “immoral.” Sometimes the Bible considers certain things wrong that are civilly legal. The fact that these exist show how far culture has “slouched toward Gomorrah” in the words of former Supreme Justice nominee, Judge Robert Bork. In this case, some laws (or absence of laws) in our society allow certain behaviors that, for Christians, are Matters of Conviction and clearly beyond the pale. These, though sometimes debated by some, would include issues legal in some places, but nevertheless in clear or implicit violation of scriptural authority, like: marijuana use and the abuse of drugs and medication, drunkenness, abortion on demand, suicide or doctor-assisted suicide, unfair business dealings, sexual activity with deceased persons (on the rise in some places and not always outlawed) or the like.
Interestingly, agreement by Christians on what constitutes a Matter of Conviction isn’t necessary– though most Christians happen to agree. This is seen in Galatians 2, and can be extrapolated in other instances, where scripture was clear but believers’ behavior and convictions differed. In that passage, Paul challenged Peter who was “clearly in the wrong” and whose actions were hypocritical, in that Peter’s actions threatened Christian fellowship and even Christian doctrine. Scripture was clear– and the issue was one of obedience, not a crisis of conscience.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for believers to differ on issues like these which should be “slam dunks” scripturally, but disagreements still happen. Even so, when the Bible is clear about certain issues, choices, or decisions, no discernment is needed. Christians should be obedient to scripture and to the Lord, and stand one’s ground, in spite of whether others disagree. The Holy Spirit will settle the rest. No one made that more clear than the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:15 who said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”
Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conscience”
The second category in making good choices, it seems to me, are Matters of Conscience.
Matters of Conscience are as follows: (1) decision-making issues that may or may not be directly mentioned in scripture, and that (2) Christians may feel very strongly about, but that (3) reasonable Christians can conclude are either not explicit nor clear in scripture, requiring patience and humility toward others on such matters.
It’s important to keep in mind that Matters of Conscience are very much “important.” The fact that devoted believers may disagree on some of these issues does not lessen their importance most of the time. These are issues where right and wrong are (or apparently are) in play. These are deeply personal issues of one’s conscience and stir our hearts profoundly in some cases.
When a Matter of Conscience exists– even if a person might agree that “good Christians can disagree” on the matter, that does not require the believer to weaken their own conviction…. but it does require us to “live and let live.” In other words, these are issues that require both personal conviction on one’s values and interpersonal grace and humility at the same time.
Matters of Conscience are issues that trigger the conscience and that good biblical Christians can differ upon. These are areas where important issues are involved, including issues that may have some moral connotations, but that lack sufficient biblical clarity, or where nuances of language, cultural considerations, or challenges of interpretation might exist or are perceived to exist.
The danger here is that, because of people’s increasing lack of conviction about the authority of scripture in some areas of Christendom (among believers, churches, and theological institutions), there are those who would like to push nearly every issue into this category or lower. Some Christians have even relegated things like “Jesus being the only way to God” (John 14:6) to an unnecessary and unbinding issue. Even so, lest we drift into moral subterfuge and amorality, this category should be clearly defined and carefully understood.
On Matters of Conscience, the individual believer isn’t or shouldn’t be confused. Because they are matters of “conscience,” the issues are mostly straight-forward, at least in our mind. They evoke and stimulate our consciences, so we feel strongly about these issues. That is not the issue. The issue is that “our conviction is not shared by most/all.” And, if pressed, a mature believer would admit that there may be room in these issues where scripture “could have been more clear” and, because it isn’t, there was an intentional decision to leave them as they are.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conscience
- In the New Testament, though scripture seemed to be clear to many, still other believers with a different background had different opinions. Some believers, primarily Jewish, sought circumcision (Galatians 5:1-4) while others did not. Another instance was where some believers felt free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (Galatians 2:11-16) and others didn’t. In other words, their consciences were each triggered differently about the same issue. Though scripture was, over time, understood and increasingly clear, there was a time when devoted Jesus followers did not share the same view. Both loved Christ and were committed to scripture. Both thought they were right about the issue, but they generally gave other believers freedom of conscience. And that’s why these are called Matters of Conscience.
Other issues about which Christians disagree, though scriptural teaching in some form or another exist, are:
- Choices about social drinking
- Immigration issues
- Some (perhaps not all) political planks in different political parties’ platforms (minimum wage-fair wage disputes, social justice causes, etc.)
- Psychiatric Care issues
- Stances on ‘Climate Change’ as an ideology
- About a million more.
Personally, I have strong convictions, one side or the other, on these issues. And I believe that scripture touches these matters. But I also understand these issues, at least “some of them,” can be understood differently by other well-meaning and devoted believers. And while they may strongly believe I am wrong on some of these choices, and me-them, I still extend to them courtesy, mercy, and grace– even though these can remain areas of disagreement and even debate.
What should we do in these instances?
• Know their positions on these issues
• Uphold-live their beliefs and honor their consciences
• Be prepared to discuss their positions
• Patiently give love and honor to those who differ (1 Cor 8; 1 Cor 10:29)
Making Good Choices in “Matters of Choice”
The final category in my thinking about “making good choices” is called “Matters of Choice.”
In Matters of Choice, we are faced with issues where no clear scriptural issue is at play. These are general issues of importance to some people, including strong importance, but that are not addressed in scripture or that scripture gives freedom of expression. Some people feel strongly enough about these issues that they seek to elevate their status to higher levels, but in truth, they aren’t.
Note here that– being a Matter of Choice doesn’t mean that these aren’t important, or that they’re not worth sweating, or that I am undervaluing them. Indeed, almost every (not all, but many) decisions– even Matters of Choice– are important, at least to the person making the choice…. but here, I’m not saying “Matters of Insignificance,” but rather, Choice. And as such, this simply means that there are no explicit or implicit scriptural prohibitions or commands that require our obedience.
Think of it this way. God leads us in choices. Sometimes God even gives us freedom in what to choose, without much or any direction. But these can still be important decisions. Where OR IF you go to college, for example, is an important decision. But it’s not a scriptural one. What you wear is important– but it is a matter of choice. Only if issues of modesty enter in does it move to another category, such as a Matter of Conscience or Matter of Conviction. Normally, things like these, though important, are matters of choice. You are free to do what you want. And as the Apostle Paul said, these things shouldn’t all be taken lightly (though some choices can and should be taken lightly).
Paul’s admonition was to say:
“I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23).
Possible Examples of Matters of Choice
- Whether women wear pants or skirts/dresses or makeup or jewelry (some take issue with this based on certain scriptural passages that are misunderstood as prohibitions)
- Whether you buy expensive items or not (meaning, cost of something isn’t necessarily a sign of materialism in and of itself)
- Choosing to be vegan-vegetarian (or Paleo or any other version of food intake) (Mark 7:15-19; simple video explanation on why it is a choice and not a doctrinal issue of conviction or conscience)
- The choice of using “paper or plastic or a reusable shopping bag” at a grocery store (as some have made all environmental issues issues bearing more importance than given in scripture)
- Celebrating Christmas and one’s position on Santa Claus (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
- One’s approach about handling the Easter Bunny issue with their children or church (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
- Dressing up or not dressing up for Halloween (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
- Where you go to college and if you go to college (not a true moral issue, but an important decision or matter of choice)
- Whether you go to one Bible-believing church or denomination or a different Bible-believing church or denomination
- Whether you use one type of Bible translation or another (any situation where a ‘translation’ is seen as the accurate one that “cannot ever be changed” like was discussed with the ESV recently and that is held by some KJV-only groups)
- And all other issues of choice
What to Do: Believers should:
• Ensure the issue is indeed only a matter of choice (Rom 14:5)
• Live in freedom (Gal 5:1)
• Don’t allow your freedom in Christ to be taken by others who self-righteously judge your legitimate freedom in Christ Col. 2:16-17
• Personally decide if and when to temporarily and situationally suspend your freedom for weaker Christians (1 Cor 8:9)
• Be patient with immature believers and don’t argue over the issues (Rom 14:1)
• Don’t accept or tolerate the self-righteous judgment of others in these areas where no accusations should exist (Rom 14:10)
• Central in all these issues is that Christians love one another (John 13:34-35) and not judge one another (Col 2:16-17)
These are principles of how to make good choices. By using this one or by creating your own that corresponds with scripture, you can quickly assess how to approach different decisions, especially when you have the opportunity to think about choices that need to be made.
By simply asking yourself, “Is this a Matter of Conviction (a truly non-negotiable biblical truth issue), a Matter of Conscience (an important issue that the Bible addresses, but that we must carefully weigh using our conscience and discernment of broader biblical principles), or a Matter of Choice (either a trivial issue or a more important issue, but one that the Bible provides no compelling prohibition or command for, providing you the opportunity to decide for yourself, without the need for others’ condemnation), you can then go into each category and use the suggested principles to help you in decision making– so you can make good choices!
If you found this helpful, please share it!
Food and Other Choices Made Daily: (Wansink and Sobal, 2007)
Total number of choices daily: (https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders)
Racism is a scourge of our time.
Whether it is racism, hatred, or any form of person-centered evil, it should be condemned.
In this special episode of Podcast Seminary, Dean Freddy Cardoza discusses the happenings at Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 as they were unfolding, including personal experiences involving racism, and an appeal for the embrace of a biblical view of race and humanity.
Guest Post by Podcast Seminary friend, Dr. Eric Turner
No, this is not a post about how to use Snapchat (or any other social media) for growing a college ministry.
Let me explain.
I had this crazy idea recently to flood all of the college students I know on Snapchat with an informal research question. For those who do not know, I have served as a college/singles pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Kansas City and I am currently a New Testament faculty member at Hannibal-LaGrange University. My point is, I know a lot of college students and I am always looking for wisdom on how better to engage in effective ministry towards them.
For the record, the number of students may not be statistically significant, but at least it was enough to arrive at some interesting conclusions. So, if you are currently doing college ministry or are pondering how to begin a college ministry, you may find what I am about to share helpful, or at least, insightful. Now, here is the Snapchat question I asked,
“What is one Do and one Don’t of College Ministry?”
I received a variety of response. Allow me to list a few of them for you and then I will draw together some observations/principles for those of us who seek to faithfully minister to this unique generation. Here is a sampling of what they said…
- Do not expect an immediate response when starting your college ministry.
- Form friendships with college students with the intent of sharing the gospel.
- Do not dumb down the gospel.
- Know your audience.
- Do not isolate your students from the larger body of believers.
- Open up your life to your students.
- Do life with them.
- Keep your ministry “missional,” get it outside the four walls of the church.
- Be careful in choosing your leadership.
- Stay relevant.
- Use challenging material that will make them dig deep.
- Do not have too much structure; the ministry should have an organic feel.
- Teach theology to college students.
From these and from my experience in college ministry, here are a few observations/principles that may help you get on the right track.
1. The size of your college ministry is not as important as you think it is.
Very little was said about students wanting to be part of a large college ministry. What was noteworthy is that students appear to value substance over sheer numbers. Unfortunately, in the past and from a pastor’s perspective, we have used numbers to gauge success. From the perspective of students, this conversation is not on their radar. Therefore, you would do well as a college minister to not base your worth on the size of your group. Churches, I exhort you, stop playing the numbers game with your leaders.
2. College students do not want shallow teaching, they long for depth.
Over and over again, from a majority of the students polled, I heard that depth of teaching was a major factor in whether they were attracted to or stayed connected to a college ministry. One student sent me this response,
I once had a Bible study on campus with students through Romans. You would not believe how hungry they were for depth. They had been given Sunday School answers all their life. Students love being part of meaningful conversations. I had one student so shocked that the Jews rejected Jesus, she slammed her fists on the table and yelled, “We need to tell them!”
In other words, put away the games you played in youth group and start digging deep into Jesus.
3. Relationships are more important than structure in college ministry.
Often, we begin with the opposite strategy. We are taught to develop the structure (what we do) and then, when we attract students, the focus shifts to building relationships (who we are). Almost every student responded with something about the importance of relationships. None of them were concerned at all with the format of the ministry. As a caveat, this is not to say that you have zero structure, throwing caution to the wind as you drink coffee with your students in a casual atmosphere. What I am noting is the priority you place on building relationships. In other words, focus more on who you are rather than what you do. As one student boldly declared, build a relationship with me before you lecture me.
4. College students need engagement with the wider body of Christ, not isolation.
Here is a secret worth its ministry weight in gold. College students want to serve in your church. Give them leadership opportunities, however, as one student rightly said, do not allow students to serve if they are living a life of unrepentant sin. Connect students with married couples, senior adults, and above all, find places for them to serve out of the gifts they possess. Just because they are college students does not mean that they share in less of a portion of the Holy Spirit.
5. Patience is a must as you seek to disciple college students.
One of the first “snaps” that I received back read, do not get discouraged when students seem to be living double lives, continue pouring into them. Another remarked, do not make decisions for your students when they come to you for advice. Help them make their own decisions. I have discovered that ministry to college students is often messy, but you know, so is ministry to any other age group. It takes a calm, wise, and patient leader to help guide students into Christ-likeness.
6. You have to be willing to open your life before college students.
I would note, if you are going to do effective, long-term ministry to college students, this principle is non-negotiable. They want to have fun with you as a leader, but they do not want you to act like a college student. They crave examples that they can follow and imitate. They want encouragement, but they value transparency the most. One student wisely said, be willing to just hang out with me – but remember, it doesn’t always have to be about coffee. Some of our deepest relationships have been and continue to be built as open our home and our lives (for better or for worse) to college students.
7. Food, food, food…
It may seem simplistic, but if you feed them, they will come. One of the replies was telling as it got right to the point; food – it is hard to hear over a grumbling stomach. Remember this well and get this next sentence embedded in your strategy. A home-cooked meal may be the lifeline that a college student is longing for, especially if they eat off of a meal plan in their campus cafeteria, but even more importantly, if they are struggling with homesickness and afraid to tell someone. For many, this is the first time they have been separated from family. Your family could become their family.
Again, this post is a somewhat unscientific assessment on the best practices and common pitfalls of college ministry, the do’s and don’ts. But, I believe what is important to consider is that these principles are drawn from college students themselves. So, if you are doing college ministry or thinking of starting one, heed this practical wisdom. I truly believe that the generation that is in college right now is poised to do significant kingdom work. My prayer is that we see incredible gospel results as we faithfully minister to them.
Adopted from the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home in St. Louis, Eric Turner is a Hannibal, Missouri native who recently joined the faculty at Hannibal-LaGrange University. Before accepting the position as Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek in 2014, Eric served as Interim Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, MO, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Braymer, MO and College/Singles Pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, KS.
Dr. Turner currently holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies – New Testament Emphasis from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His dissertation research focused on identifying and interpreting linguistic metaphor in Second Corinthians. The ultimate goal of the research was to show that a modern linguistic model for English metaphor can be applied to the Greek New Testament with profitable outcomes for the interpretation of historically difficult passages.
Outside the classroom, Dr. Turner can be found running, playing guitar, riding motorcycles, or traveling. He has been married to his wife Stephanie for 23 years and together they have four children. He and his family are avid St. Louis Cardinals fans.
Listen to “Ron’s Story
We often say that “everybody has a story.” That’s certainly true with Ron. This is part two of a first-ever live Podcast Seminary interview in Studio C Los Angeles (see the studio).
In Part 2 of this audio interview, Ron talks Discipleship. We discuss some of the needs Christians and churches have in discipleship today, along with needed solutions. You’ll also hear about Ron’s involvement in the formulation of Podcast Seminary– from a single discussion had after a discipleship event in 2016.
Do you have a story? We want to hear about it. People want to read it! We are even willing to consider featuring your story on PodcastSeminary.com/blog in a future post like this one.
Connect with me through leaving a comment below or by going to the Contact page, and we’ll get started!
Why do you behave the way you do?
How do you have a clear conscience? Human behavior confounds us– and even the scientific community. This is because of fundamental confusion about the nature of humanity.
Because human nature is misunderstood, the reasons for behavioral problems (habits, behaviors, addictions, issues, dysfunction, etc.) are also misunderstood– simply because they are related and one follows the other.
In this instructive podcast, Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza (Ph.D., Leadership) will use his 20 years of experience as a pastor and 22 years as an academic professor at the graduate and post-graduate level to explore this vital topic.
Ron’s Salvation Story
I was born in San Diego, and grew up as an only child in a Christian home. I attended private Christian school. My family attended a Baptist church. At 13 years of age, I prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ one day in church, but I did not tell anyone. I guess that I wasn’t ready yet to make him the Lord of my life, and I was fearful of what the neighborhood kids would say about me. Maybe they would laugh at me, make fun of me, or call me a Jesus freak After all, the idea that Jesus died and came back to life seemed very unlikely to me. How could I possibly defend this crazy sounding story? If it was true, I wanted to believe, but I just didn’t know how, and I was too afraid to ask.
For 27 years, I walked through life believing that there might be a God, but was unsure. I believed that I was a pretty good person and deserved to go to heaven if there was one. However, my belief had no basis other than I had heard this for a number of other people and it seemed logical to me. Also, I was told by a close friend in college that there are a lot of religions, as well as, ways to heaven. And, in addition, religions just try to explain what we do not know.
At nearly 40 years old, I was in the best physical shape of my life, and everything seemed great. However, starting with my 40th birthday, I began to experience pain in a number of areas of my life. First, I became very aware that my marriage relationship was not in a good place. Soon to follow, my athletic triathlete body started to hurt from age and injury. I surrendered. I let go. No longer did I believe that I was in control. I began to work on myself. I began searching for answers. Thankfully, God had put many people in my path that would help me find a life of significance and purpose.
During that same year, a friend put his hand on my shoulder in the parking lot of a hospital, and prayed for God to make himself known to me in a way that I could understand. Eleven days later, the prayer was answered when God revealed himself in a powerful way to me. It was on that day of September 15, 2011, that God became real to me.
Ron’s Thrills and Trials as a Disciple of Jesus
I have been a believer now for almost 6 years, and it is time for me to work at going deeper. I want to be able to grow my faith and take it to a greater depth. More specifically, I need discipleship help in the area of leadership. I am a father to three children and I desperately want them to know God. And, I want to be a better father to them. Also, there is a new believer at church that is asking me to meet with him weekly. I want to know how to disciple him in his new found faith.
Ron and Podcast Seminary
I have lead a couple of small groups, and both times they have dissolved after two or three years. If I was better at discipleship, I believe that those small groups might have remained intact and still be thriving to this day. It is my hope that Podcast Seminary can help me to meet my spiritual growth needs, and as a result, I can become a more effective discipler and follower of Christ.
Do you have a story? We want to hear about it. People want to read it! We are even willing to consider featuring your story on PodcastSeminary.com/blog in a future post like this one.
Connect with me through leaving a comment below or by going to the Contact page, and we’ll get started!
Why You Behave the Way You Do
If you’re sometimes confused and even surprised by the things you do (especially the bad things), you’re not alone. Perhaps the only thing more shocking that why we behave why we do– is why others behave the way they do!
People everywhere feel the same. Not only now, but for millennia, human behavior has been a topic of discussion and concern. Civilizations throughout history have wanted to understand human behavior and its motivations. Good behavior is no problem. It enriches the world and only makes things better. It’s the bad behavior that concerns people. That’s because of the toll that bad behavior exacts on people, communities, and society at large.
In response to bad behavior, ‘laws’ are created, along with civil, meaning “state” or government punishments. But all laws only discourage behavior, not necessarily prevent it. Civilized societies discovered a long time ago that we can legislate behavior, but that we cannot externally change the human heart.
In fact, as long as a person is willing to deal with the odds of either getting caught and/or the consequences of their decisions, ‘laws’ and other external forces meant to curb behavior have little or no effect. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t have laws– we should and must. But it’s important to understand that laws operate at the lowest level of personal character– external behavior, rather than at the root of behavior, which is its source: the human heart.
Human Behavior is a Wild Card
That leads us to the problem. The problem is that human behavior is a wild card. It’s not always predictable. And that’s because people have free will. We call ‘free will’ “agency.” Agency is the ability to make choices freely, according to one’s own desires. So people are “agents,” and we have the God-given ability to choose what we want to do.
God’s made it that way, even though free will comes with the necessity that we can choose something other than ‘good.’ After all, “free will” wouldn’t be free if people couldn’t ‘will’ “freely.” In other words, if the only choice is “do what is right and good,” then there’s really no choice– then choices are actually determined, not free. So that’s the conundrum of free will– that, to get it, we have to open the possibility of bad behavior.
It isn’t as if God didn’t know that when He conceptualized and, in His inscrutible wisdom, choose to give us free will. There simply was no middle way: logically it wasn’t possible to create free will without the possibility of bad behavior. But God (apparently) deemed it “better” to offer free will or “personal agency” to us than to create a world of wound-up, determined robots going through the motions of a mechanized world. So it was either that– or freedom…. or to just create nothing at all. So, because God is greater and infinitely wise, He created an equitable system where, by the end of it all, He’d work out every injustice and circumvent every illegitimate human hurt, through His great providence, purpose, and wisdom.
So that takes care of part of the issue– that, ultimately, justice for bad human behavior will be addressed, and that God will redeem every injustice and give us everlasting bliss as believers– but FOR NOW, we still have the temporal and troubling daily issue of dealing with our, and others, free will– and the decisions and behaviors that go with it.
That said, the problem is that, sometimes, what we want to do has negative ramifications. Freedom has consequences– and it can produce both positive and negative outcomes.
The Apostle Paul Nailed It
An often-quoted statement from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament nails it:
“I am a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the sin at work within me. (Romans 7:14-21 excerpts, New Testament)
How much clearer could it be? Written thousands of years ago, we find ourselves sitting beside Paul, with our own hands gripping his ink-dipped quill, helping him write these words.
Paul was dealing with a profoundly important and personal issue we all face: our behavior.
Fundamentally, we behave the way we do because of the two or three causes or mitigating factors: Human behavior can be largely explained by these three factors:
Human Behavior is affected by the fact that we have moral agency– the fact that we have “free will.” I prefer the phrase ‘agency’ but free will is more common of a term and more broadly understood. Some of us who traffic in theology feel there are better ways and more exacting ways to communicate it, but for the simplicity of the discussion, let’s go with “free will.”
Human Behavior is affected by the fact that we have a fallen nature. Our human condition is compromised. We are broken. More about that in a minute.
Human Behavior is mitigated by the possession of and response to factors that include the activity and our response to the Human Conscience (in all people) and the presence or absence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life (Christian believers).
Now, let’s go back to the topic of this post (behavior) and to the current series– How to Have a Clear Conscience, and see how these relate to human behavior.
Theologians call this problem “Original Sin.” And sometimes it’s also called the Fall of Adam.
The Bible speaks about it in Romans 5:12, through the Apostle Paul. He writes: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”
Here the Bible is speaking of the fact that spiritual brokenness entered the human experience (“just as sin entered the world”) through Adam, the Original Human Being (“through one man”), that sin brought physical and spiritual separation from God (“and death through sin”). And because of this Original Sin of Adam, that condition of being spiritually and physically separated from God was from then on inherited by all people, everywhere (“and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”).
Wait! What Do You Mean We Have “Original Sin?”
I know, it’s startling. The idea that all people are broken is hard to swallow. Even harder is the idea that every person, when they are born, have something deeply and intrinsically wrong in their personhood. Just the idea– we don’t like it. And on that basis, many people simply reject the idea of Original Sin as being over the top.
So I realize that it’s a sobering concept, but I also believe the existence and reality of Original Sin is demonstrable in several ways. I like to think of it this way…
Indications of Original Sin
When a child is born and is only moments old (this is going to be tough to read, so brace yourself), we already know that, embedded within that child’s humanity is the condition of being mortal. In other words, when a child is born, we know that that child (and every child who ever lived) has a date of terminus– the child, whether he or she grows up or grows old, will ultimately die.
This is true, even if we could keep that person from any physical or medical threat. In such a case, even if no tragedy befell them, we KNOW that even that person would ultimately die of, if nothing else, “old age.”
Mortality affects 100% of people. And mortality itself is a direct result of Original Sin. And so is aging. If Original Sin didn’t exist, it seems that aging, disease, dying, and the like simply wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Why, after all, would or should anyone necessarily die? What explanation might be given for aging and dying of old age, if not Original Sin?
But in addition to this, consider another really obvious indication of “Original SIn.” Specifically, the idea that every person is “born with” a negative moral condition of being fallen. And it seems to me that this is demonstrably true.
Consider this: No good parent ever taught their child to do anything wrong. But kids do wrong things sometimes– even frequently. In fact, not only do we “not have to teach children to do ‘evil,’” they choose to do it quite naturally. In fact, kids often exhibit bad behavior IN SPITE OF the fact that we teach them constantly about good behavior!
What’s more, the very fact that we feel that we NEED to teach people to “behave” shows the implicit realization we have that people, left to themselves, will not always behave very well.
That’s a tacit admission that we innately realize that people carry an inherent brokenness. Meaning, functionally speaking, everyone– deep down– knows that all humans are not only capable of doing bad things– but that people can and will do bad things at times, out of their own volition, even when they are taught to do otherwise. In fact, even with the threat of punishment or pain, people of all ages, including children, naturally and quite easily choose bad behavior at times.
This isn’t meant to be negative— it’s just to establish an important theological truth: That Original Sin exists and that, inherently, we know it– even though it’s hard to admit.
Understanding Our Broken Nature
And because our human nature is broken, we do things we shouldn’t. We do things we don’t want to do. We do things others don’t want us to do. And we do things that, as a result, harm us… and others. These things harm us in all kinds of ways– sometimes emotionally; sometimes relationally; sometimes mentally; sometimes physically– and sometimes our behavior harms us in all of those ways.
So it’s important to understand human behavior and to get this figured out because it affects us (and others), including the ones we love, on a regular, even daily basis.
What Original Sin Does
It’s pretty clear that Original Sin is a serious thing. It has contaminated us. By that Original Sin passing from Adam on to us, we now have the natural predisposition to do things we shouldn’t do. We are, if you please, hard-wired in a way that we sometimes gravitate toward becoming unruly and even rebellious.
Let’s go just a little deeper.
First, I should say that I realize some people won’t or don’t like this idea. In fact, some are even ‘offended’ by it. That, plus it seems counterintuitive.
Didn’t God Create Us as Perfect Beings?
The reasoning against Original Sin goes something like this:
- God is perfect.
- God created a perfect world (as seen in Paradise or Eden, Genesis 1-3).
- In that perfect world he placed perfect people.
- These people were created in His image and, as such, must have been perfect and therefore– fundamentally good.
On the surface it sounds perfectly logical. And it’s almost correct. But there’s more to it than what’s at face value.
- God is perfect. That part is right on the money.
- Also, God did create a perfect world. Again, good.
And in that perfect would, God created perfect people. Here, we have to say both, “yes” and “not exactly.” When God created Adam and Eve, they were “functionally perfect” in that they were newly created and had not sinned. But that did not mean they were completely perfect in terms of their human nature.
Don’t miss this.
Adam and Eve were created and were without sin. But because they were created, and finite, they were fundamentally different than God. And as created beings, though they were made “in God’s image,” they were not capable of receiving a completely incorruptible human nature. So while they were created as innocent and without sin, they were given free will and this (coupled with the fact that they were human and not God Himself) made them vulnerable.
Then, ultimately, Lucifer was expelled from Heaven due to his rebellion against God– he exploited this human vulnerability (free will or agency) and the corruptible (but then-innocent) nature of people was tempted and humanity fell.
This fallenness has been passed on, since that time, to all of us. It is the root cause of our estrangement from God, our personal issues, our bad behavior, and our moral weakness, in addition to a host of other things.
And if we take that issue, Original Sin, and add it to on-going human agency, our free will takes us places. And that… is why we behave the way we do.